One of the hardest things about the teenage years and adolescence is getting used to the way the body is changing during this turbulent time.
A study done by the Mental Health Foundation with YouGov in the UK in 2019 reported that:
Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.
Mayo Clinic says this about the matter of body image in adolescence:
Body image is how you think or feel about your appearance, your body, and how you feel in your own skin. Maintaining a normal and healthy body image during adolescence, a period of major physical and emotional changes, can be difficult. Factors that might harm a teenager’s body image include:
- Natural or expected weight gain and other changes caused by puberty
- Peer pressure to look a certain way
- Social media and other media images that promote the ideal body as fit, thin or muscular and encourage users to aspire to unrealistic or unattainable body ideals
- Having a parent who’s overly concerned about his or her own weight or his or her child’s weight or appearance
- Seeing material in which a teen is seen as a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than an independent, thinking person (sexual objectification)
And it’s not just impacting young women, either. Newport Institute says:
In recent years, eating disorders and problems with excessive exercise have increased among men, along with what’s known as “muscle dysmorphia.” Exacerbated by the unrealistic expectations set by media and social media, male body image issues are especially prevalent among young adults.
Moreover, men are less likely than women to talk about or get help for these issues. While the body positivity movement among women has grown substantially over the last decade, male body positivity isn’t focused on nearly as much. Therefore, the stigma around male body image issues often prevents young men from speaking honestly about their experiences and seeking treatment for related mental health challenges. … Moreover, during the pandemic, isolation and lack of social and physical activity has led to a spike in disordered eating and negative body image issues in men. In a recent survey of 2,000 males in Britain, almost half of the respondents said that their body image issues had impacted their mental health. Furthermore, 58 percent said the pandemic had negatively affected how they feel about their body, and only a quarter said that they were happy with how they look.
A 2020 study led by social psychology professor Viren Swami dug deeper into the link between males affected by negative body image and mental health challenges during COVID. The research team found that pandemic-related anxiety and stress was associated with greater desire for muscularity, and anxiety was also associated with body dissatisfaction.
“What is Happening to me?”
What isn’t considered, most of the time, is that the body is changing because what the body needs is changing. There are systems and processes and organs leveling up and becoming more active than they were during childhood. A teenager being thrown into a new state of living and trying to figure out how to handle something as close to a brand-new body as humans will ever get. Not only that, but the nutrition needs for this body are different than they used to be, and food intake that wasn’t ever a problem before is suddenly causing things like acne, cramps, and chronic aches, worse periods, and mood swings.
Everyone is taught from the time they’re a child that the amount of food you take in is directly proportionate to how your body looks. Your weight, your height, how clear (or not) your skin is–all of it depends on the food you eat. “You have to eat your broccoli if you want to grow up big and strong,” and the like. Is it any wonder that, as your body changes, what your body depends on for fuel–and the amount that’s needed–changes too?
So, what can we do?
Change The Way You Look at Food
Consider the average teen diet. Many parents may and wish their kids ate a more “balanced” diet, but did you know that the food pyramid is upside down?
Food is extremely emotional–that’s why we eat to celebrate things, to bring comfort, and even when we’re bored. Food will never not be emotional, but you have to start looking at food as fuel if you want to understand what your body needs. Your body needs to refuel on what it’s made of. So, what is the body made of?
45% of your body is protein, 35% is fat, and 5% is carbohydrates. The remaining 15% of your body is made up of vitamins and minerals.
Your brain is 61% fat, 35% proteins, and 4% glucose sugar. Your body, then, needs more healthy fats than people tend to think, sufficient protein, followed by little carbohydrates and sugars.
This is completely different from how we’re told to look at food. This is why, even when people are “eating healthy,” they’re very often sick.
Get Allergies Tested
If you’ve been around the Wellness Way for any length of time, you’ll recognize this as our first answer to most things. If your body can’t handle and benefit from the food you’re taking in, you’re only hurting your body by making it work harder. Your digestive system has to work harder to get the same amount of nutrients and energy. Your immune response is working overtime, fighting what it sees as foreign substances that it doesn’t actually have to contend with.
When you’re eating foods you’re allergic to, it causes inflammation in the body. This is exactly like what happens to your finger if you slam it in the door–it gets red and puffy and sensitive. When the tissues that are getting puffy and sensitive are within the body, it can cause unwanted weight gain and aches and pains throughout the body—many of the concerns teens have with their body!
Inflammation can also make mental illnesses like anxiety and depression worse. Anxiety and depression, in turn, make body image issues worse. It’s a vicious cycle that, often times, is either hidden, or we simply don’t know how to locate the buried root cause.
The adolescent body is growing and changing, and that takes a lot of energy. Working against the body by not giving it the nutrition it needs is only causing more fatigue and irritability. When the body gets fatigued, processes don’t work as well. This only lends itself to the aches and pains potentially caused by the inflammation that is also stemming from allergies.
This is especially true when these allergies impact the gut. The gut has far more going on in it than you may think. It produces hormones and immune cells and has a staggering number of neurotransmitters it produces and supports as well. When the gut isn’t doing well, it affects more than just digestive issues.
Check Your Meds
Some prescription medications can mess with the microbiome in your gut, cause weight gain or loss, or negatively impact other areas in the body. If a teen is taking medication or other pills that lead to a disruption in certain systems of their body, that may be the cause for negative body image issues. Check your medications after you get your allergies tested, too–a lot of prescription medications have hidden allergens within them, along with chemicals and other toxins.
Consider the posture, bumps, and bruises, and simply the growth the teen body endures. If the body is out of alignment, it can create physical stress. This also leads to inflammation and fatigue. It leads to aches, pains, and lethargy that can make the issues–mental and physical–teens are going through worse. If a teen’s body hurts or doesn’t function properly, it can be very easy to view it as “broken.” Keep the body functioning properly by getting adjusted regularly and making sure everything is aligned as it should be.
The body you have is the only one you’re given, but when it’s changing as drastically as it does in the teen years, it can feel like you’re getting a whole new body. To keep that body calibrated or get your allergies or stool tested, contact a Wellness Way clinic today.